Carbohydrate ingestion, blood glucose and mood

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2002 May;26(3):293-308. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(02)00004-0.


A series of studies have reported that a high carbohydrate meal, or diets high in carbohydrate, were associated with feeling less energetic. However, after a drink containing pure sugar most studies report no effect. Meals almost exclusively carbohydrate increase the availability of tryptophan and hence serotonin synthesis in the brain, however, a small amount of protein blocks this mechanism making it an uncommon response. In many individuals, poor mood stimulates the eating of palatable high carbohydrate/high fat foods that stimulate the release of endorphins. There is a tendency for those with lower blood glucose, when performing cognitively demanding tasks, to report poorer mood. In a range of situations an association between a tendency for blood glucose levels to fall rapidly, and irritability, has been found. Differences in the ability to control blood glucose levels influence the association between carbohydrate intake and mood. There is a need in future research to contrast the impact of carbohydrate on mood in those distinguished because of their pre-existing psychological and physiological functioning.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect* / physiology
  • Blood Glucose* / metabolism
  • Blood Glucose* / physiology
  • Dietary Carbohydrates* / metabolism
  • Dietary Carbohydrates* / pharmacology
  • Endorphins / metabolism
  • Endorphins / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Serotonin / physiology
  • Tryptophan / metabolism
  • Tryptophan / physiology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Endorphins
  • Serotonin
  • Tryptophan